En musique, l’oreille absolue, c’est la capacité de nommer les notes dès qu’on les entend. Contrairement à l’oreille relative, qui désigne la faculté de reconnaître une note à partir d’une note de référence, l’oreille absolue est très rare. En occident, elle concernerait une personne sur dix mille. Pourquoi certaines personnes ont-elles l’oreille absolue, et d’autres pas ? Que se passe-t-il dans le cerveau des personnes qui en sont dotées ? Comment acquiert-on cette capacité ? Peut-on l’apprendre adulte ? Eléments de réponse sur ce qui demeure encore un mystère scientifique, à l’occasion de la Fête de la musique 2018.
The increasingly fanciful hope in Argentina was that this World Cup would bring Lionel Messi’s career peak, but the deepening worry around the squad is that it has already brought one of his worst lows in the game. They’ve never really seen him like this, as withdrawn and sombre as he has been in their Bronnitsy base over the last few days.
Saturday’s penalty miss against Iceland has hit him hard. The 30-year-old could barely show his face the next day. Although the Argentine staff had organised a family barbecue to celebrate father’s day, Messi didn’t go. He stayed in the room he shares with Sergio Aguero, alone.
It should be noted Messi’s own family were not there, as they don’t arrive until the next few days, so that will have increased his desire to stay away – but it was just as noteworthy that his wife Antonella felt the need for a public show of support on Instagram.
This is a man who feels he’s let his nation down. “I am responsible for what happened,” Messi said after Iceland, and he fears for what could happen next. He’s all too aware of the stakes at this World Cup, for both himself and Argentina.
Many around the Argentina camp have picked up on how often he said some variation of “it’s now or never” to media in the build-up to this World Cup. All he can seem to see right now is “never”.
For their part, the rest of the Argentine squad have themselves been highly aware of Messi’s downbeat mood, and the need to lift him in more ways than one. They fully recognise they are effectively here because of him, that his talent represents their only chance of going far, but that it’s unfair to always expect him “to be Superman”. They want to work out a system that is best for Messi, and offer support in so many ways. They want to step up.
It’s just that Messi is so fundamentally important to Argentina that if he isn’t right, it can disrupt the rhythm of the whole side. And this is a group that, according to those close to the camp, don’t deal with setbacks well.
It’s for that reason manager Jorge Sampaoli has been so focused on mental work in the build-up to this huge match against Croatia. There’s been a lot of talk about sports psychology around their Bronnitsy base, but the deeper and typical problem for Argentina is that they just can’t afford to focus on that. They have so much work to do.
It’s not just that Croatia have a better system, but that they have one that works, in a way that Argentina’s does not. That has meant Zlatko Djalic’s side also have something else Argentina do not: belief, confidence.
“We have phenomenal players, from the goalkeeper to the defenders to the attackers,” Mateo Kovacic declared on Tuesday. “We don’t need to fear Argentina. We believe we are better than they are.”
That probably isn’t even hubristic bravado either, but rather a fair assessment of reality. A mere glance at the Argentina line-up against Iceland re-affirms. There are some big names, but then a lot of little-known names, because of what is a front-loaded squad. And if Argentina are missing key pieces, this game looks like it’s falling into place to provide one of those jarring reality checks, the kind of hard reckoning when it all caves in. The real end of an era. Indeed, it’s difficult to know how they’re going to get the ball off Croatia, given the quality of Luka Modric and Ivan Rakitic in midfield.
Argentina just can’t touch that quality, and may not be able to get near them without a serious reshaping of the side. Just one other factor worsening Messi’s mood is reportedly his sense of responsibility for suggesting the midfield pair of Javier Mascherano and Lucas Biglia, a pairing that simply didn’t work against Iceland.
With so much doubt and hesitation, Sampaoli has attempted to offer a certain decisiveness of his own. He is making big changes to the team. Sampaoli is first of all throwing out the four-man backline the players say they prefer, and returning to his own idealised three. He is then jettisoning three of the old guard in Angel Di Maria, Marcos Rojo and Biglia, and bringing in younger players in Nicolas Tagliafico, Cristian Pavon and Marcos Acuna.
These are more of the lesser-known names, but the entire point is that they are pumped to make a name for themselves – and make the drives Sampaoli’s football requires. It’s something he particularly wants for this game.
The message around the Argentina camp over the last few days is that, against Croatia’s possession, they are “going to have to run… and run and run”.
Given even the dysfunctional last few games of qualification and the squad’s disrupted preparation programme, this feels a real risk. It may further precipitate that cave-in.
But it may also be the jolt they badly need, the big difference to cause the big change in mood and get them thinking about something else.
The bottom line, though, is that if Messi in any way turns it on, he can still turn everything on its head.
Sampaoli’s changes might help that but, even then, Messi’s mood should not be dwelt upon as a negative even if he is far from feeling positive.
His history suggests that sombre demeanour and solitude are not the set-up for worse, but the prelude to something better. In the past, he has often similarly retreated, but only to consider everything so he can get himself primed and ready. Many in the Argentina squad saw the same thing after a frustrating first game of the 2015 Copa America.
One source very familiar with the Barcelona set-up meanwhile told The Independent: “Messi will turn up. I’m sure about it.”
That’s what they’ve known of him, that’s what they fully expect from him. That’s why it all still comes back to him: the squad’s mood, the match, the group and maybe still the World Cup.
He may have been feeling alone, but it could yet see him stand alone. He knows the stakes and what he needs to do.
The Football Association are working alongside British police to investigate an online video that appears to show England fans performing Nazi salutes at the World Cup in Russia.
The video was reportedly filmed in a bar in Volgograd on the same night England played their World Cup opener against Tunisia.
In the footage, fans can be seen raising their arms in salute and chanting anti-Semitic songs. The incident has marred what was an otherwise uneventful evening that passed with no violence nor arrests.
In a statement released on Wednesday, night the FA condemned the English fans for their actions.
“We strongly condemn the actions of the people in this video,” the statement read.
“We are working with the relevant authorities, including the UK police investigations team, who are making inquiries to identify the individuals involved and take appropriate action.
“The disgraceful conduct of the individuals in this video does not represent the values of the majority of English football fans supporting the team in Russia.”
Ahead of the match, England fans were warned not to hang St George’s flags on monuments in Volgograd, formerly known as Stalingrad, and to show their respects to a city that witnessed one of the deadliest battles of the Second World War.
Of course it was Diego Costa who broke the deadlock. He is a forward who bursts dreams as casually as others pop bubble-wrap, a player who, when his mood is right, gives the impression of being able to muster a goal from almost any circumstance. Half-chances, penalty box ricochets and opportunities wrestled from opposing centre-backs are his meat and drink.
For 55 minutes, Spain had been held at arm’s length. They had struggled to impose themselves on an impeccably disciplined Iran. But then the glimmer of an opening emerged. Andres Iniesta slid a ball through for Diego Costa, who rolled the first defender but seemed to have been crowded out, only for Ramin Rezaeian’s clearance to strike the Atletico forward’s shin and rebound in. Unorthodox, unaesthetically appealing but undeniably effective, it was Costa’s career in microcosm.
They may only have drawn that opening game against Portugal, but there was still a sense that of the serious pre-tournament contenders, Spain looked the most coherent. Plenty of other sides have been confounded by the finishing of Cristiano Ronaldo, even without the dreadful error by David De Gea that seemed uncharacteristic to anybody who watches him regularly for Manchester United but that has become worryingly commonplace with his national side. Their struggles to break down Iran shouldn’t really change that assessment, although their shakiness having done so perhaps should. Still, they got an awkward job done and will guarantee their place in the last 16 with a draw in their final group game against a Morocco side that has already been eliminated.
This is not a win that should be underestimated. There were far more Iranians than Spaniards in the ground and they were far, far more vociferous, bringing to bear an eclectic mix of noise-making paraphernalia. There were vuvuzelas and inflatable clap-sticks, even such old-fashioned devices as hands and throats. There were Mexican waves, flags, phone torchlights waved slowly back and forth; it was every spectator trend of the past three decades mashed together in a single giddy outpouring of delight.
They were never more enthusiastic than when the goalkeeper Ali Bieranvand got involved. Any booted clearance drew roars of approval; simple catches were celebrated to the rafters. When he actually made a save, firing to his left to beat away a Sergio Busquets drive four minutes into the second half, it was as though Xerxes himself had materialised, hand cupped to his ear, to demand yet greater delirium.
And beyond the buzz of excitement, Iran defended superbly. They are good at this. There is a reason Iran conceded just five goals in 18 qualifying games and it is Carlos Queiroz. There may not be another coach in the world as good at organising a defence. Slightly surprisingly, he left out both Alireza Jahanbakhsh and Masoud Shojaei here; both were on yellow cards, suggesting Queiroz was already looking ahead to a qualification showdown against Portugal in the final group game.
To achieve it he set his back four narrow, protected by a deep-lying midfield five with Sardar Azmoun, playing on his home ground, dropping a long way back as well. It was a 4-5-1 that often became a 6-3-1 and was often effectively a 6-4-0. It was an approach that didn’t lend itself to particularly beautiful football, as Spain prodded and probed, but there was something mesmerising about the tight concertina of red shirts, expanding and contracting and almost never being drawn out of position. The one part of the Iran set-up that did keep drifting out of position was Queiroz himself, who spent much of the game being ordered back into his technical area by the fourth official.
Spain were good enough, eventually, to break them down, and even then Iran had chances to level, most notably the Saeid Ezatolahi effort that was ruled out for offside despite about two minutes of ecstatic celebration (the VAR obsession meant it was blamed, but the Uruguayan assistant had raised his flag; VAR merely checked whether he was right, actually offered a chance that the goal might be reinstated).
Iran need to beat Portugal to make it through; on their showings on Wednesday, that is far from impossible.
Aztec turquoise tiles may solve a Mesoamerican mystery
Turquoise was a highly prized gemstone to the ancient Aztecs and Mixtec in the region that stretches from central Mexico to Central America, known as Mesoamerica. Because scientists have found little evidence of turquoise mining in Mesoamerica, some researchers have used the presence of turquoise artifacts in the area as evidence of a long-distance trade exchange with ancient civilisations thousands of miles away in the American southwest, where turquoise mines have been found.
But a recent geochemical analysis of Aztec and Mixtec turquoise suggests that the mineral did not originate in the American southwest, but rather in Mesoamerica. The finding, in the journal Science Advances, also calls into question the idea that there was extensive contact between Mesoamerican and Southwest American cultures before the Spanish invasion in the 1500s.
Alyson Thibodeau, a geochemist and lead author on the paper, was given a jar filled with turquoise tiles associated with Mesoamerican mosaics. Many had been excavated from offerings in the Templo Mayor, the main temple in the ancient Aztec city of Tenochtitlan. The pieces date mostly to the late 15th century. Some of the samples came from loose tiles associated with Mixteca-style turquoise mosaics held by the Smithsonian Institution in the collections of the National Museum of the American Indian.
After shaving off the tiles’ edges to remove adhesives, Thibodeau ground them up individually and dissolved them in acid. She then analysed the samples for their isotopic fingerprints, which provided insight into their origins.
“Not only do they have isotopic signatures that are absolutely consistent with the geology of Mesoamerica,” she says, “but they are completely different from the isotopic signatures of the southwestern turquoise deposits and artifacts that we have seen so far.”
Thibodeau says that even though archaeologists have not found remnants of turquoise mines in Mesoamerica, that does not mean they were never there.
The twilight of the baobabs, Africa’s ‘wooden elephants’
Across Africa, the oldest and largest baobabs have begun to fall and die, according to new research in the journal Nature Plants. Scientists believe that prolonged droughts and increasing temperatures may have parched the trees, leaving them unable to support the weight of their massive trunks.
“The largest and oldest trees are more sensitive to changing climatic conditions because of their large dimensions,” says Adrian Patrut, a chemist at Babes-Bolyai University in Romania and lead author of the new study.
After Chapman’s Baobab collapsed, for example, Patrut found that the tree’s water content was just 40 percent, compared with 79 per cent for healthy baobabs.
Patrut and his colleagues did not set out to document the death of Africa’s “wooden elephants”, as the species are sometimes called. Instead, they wanted to date them.
“There were some fairy tales and folklore that these trees could be as old as 6,000 years,” says Karl von Reden, an oceanographer at the Woods Hole Oceanographic Institution and co-author of the new paper.
Baobabs do not regularly produce tree rings, so the team turned to radiocarbon dating. The scientists compared carbon 14 levels from small samples taken in the oldest parts of the trees to samples from other tree species whose age had been determined by counting their rings.
In 2005, the researchers began collecting samples from more than 60 of the largest African baobabs – those with trunk circumferences of at least 65 feet. The oldest trees, they found, were around 2,500 years old.
While younger baobabs so far seem to have been spared, the largest trees often host rich communities of animal life, including bats and bees that nest inside their cavities and birds adapted to building nests in the tree’s branches.
Using harpoon-like appendages, bacteria ‘fish’ for new DNA
Two bacteria are sitting near free-floating DNA. Suddenly, one bacterium shoots out a long appendage, latches onto a DNA fragment and reels in its catch. It happens fast, but it’s clear: this organism had just gone fishing.
Biologists at Indiana University recently captured this manoeuvre on camera for the first time.
Their findings, in the journal Nature Microbiology, verify the existence of a harpoon-like mechanism that scientists have been piecing together for decades.
The work also advances understanding of how bacteria take up DNA from their surroundings, which is called natural transformation. That process is key to the spread of antibiotic resistance, which has made bacterial illnesses increasingly difficult to treat with conventional drugs. Each year an estimated 2 million Americans become infected with antibiotic-resistant bacteria.
Researchers knew that bacteria rely on fibres called pili to capture foreign DNA. But the exact details have remained elusive because pili – more than 10,000 times thinner than human hair – are so hard to observe, says Lori Burrows, a professor of biochemistry and biomedical sciences at McMaster University in Ontario who was not involved in the study.
“It’s cool to actually see this in action,” she says.
We typically think of genes as passed down vertically, from parent to offspring. But there are also processes called horizontal gene transfer, in which DNA moves laterally between organisms that are not parent and child.
Natural transformation is one example, and it’s an important way in which bacteria, which typically reproduce asexually, introduce variation and new traits into their genetic code, says Dr Ankur Dalia, an assistant professor of biology and an author of the new paper.
When bacteria die, their DNA becomes up for grabs by other microbes. Through natural transformation, bacteria can gain the ability to degrade compounds like pesticides, become better at infecting hosts and evolve antibiotic resistance.
In their study, Dalia and his colleagues used a custom fluorescent dyeing process created by Courtney Ellison, a graduate student, and Yves Brun, a biology professor, to visualise natural transformation in Vibrio cholera, the bacterium that causes cholera. Eventually, the work could lead to new strategies for fighting antibiotic resistance.
Black hole drags star to dusty death
Gulp. Burp. And so it goes in the cruel and carnivorous universe according to Einstein.
Astronomers say this month that they have seen a giant black hole in a nearby galaxy rip apart an unfortunate wayward star and spread half of it into a messy blaze of light and heat swirling toward doom. The other half was spit outward, partly in a fiery high-energy jet at a quarter of the speed of light.
All this happened in the heart of a pair of colliding galaxies known collectively as Arp 299, about 150 million light years away. A team of astronomers, led by Dr Seppo Mattila of the University of Turku in Finland and Miguel Perez-Torres of the Astrophysical Institute of Andalusia in Spain, teased out the story of what happened from observations of infrared, or heat, radiation and radio waves that can penetrate the dust and leak out to the rest of the universe. They published their report in the journal Science.
When Mattila and his colleagues first saw a bright burst of heat coming from the region of that black hole in January 2005, they thought they had discovered a supernova, a cataclysmic explosion in which a massive star ends its life.
When galaxies collide, as the two conglomerations of stars that make up Arp 299 are doing, Mattila says, large clouds of gas fall into the central regions. That triggers a burst of star formation and then a subsequent burst of supernova explosions as the most massive of these stars quickly burn out and die.
High-resolution radio measurements revealed that the object they observed coincided almost spot on with the black hole, but it was behaving in a way very unlike a supernova. Over the course of the next decade, it expanded into a long jet of radio energy whose head by now has travelled some three light years from its origin.
Supernovas don’t do this, but a star falling into a black hole could, in what is called a tidal disruption event.
Mattila and his colleagues concluded that a star passing too close to the black hole had been stretched and ripped by fierce tidal forces into a stream of hot gas.
Although the process has been studied in theoretical models and computer simulations, this destruction of a star has rarely been recorded.
It can be easy to overlook the monstrous scale of the Antarctic ice sheet. Ice, thick enough in many places to bury mountains, covers a continent roughly the size of the US and Mexico combined.
If it were all to melt, as it has in the past, global sea levels would rise by 58m. While this scenario is unlikely, Antarctica is so massive that just a small fraction of this ice melting would be enough to displace hundreds of millions of people who live by the coast.
Low-lying cities face the threat of flooding when extreme weather coincides with high tides. Although typically rare, these events are already increasing in frequency, and will become commonplace as global sea levels increase.
Over the coming decades, rising sea levels from melting ice and the expansion of warming oceans will strain societies and economies worldwide. Improving our understanding of how much Antarctica has contributed to sea-level rise in the past, and how much it will contribute in the future, is vital to informing our response to climate change.
Achieving this is impossible without satellites. Antarctica is too vast, too remote – satellites are our only means of monitoring its behaviour on a continental scale. Satellites launched by the European Space Agency and Nasa allow scientists to monitor changes in ice height, ice velocity and ice mass through changes in Earth’s gravity field. Each of these satellites provide an independent way to measure Antarctica’s past contribution to sea level rise.
The ice sheet mass balance inter-comparison exercise is an international effort: a team of 84 polar scientists from 44 organisations, including both of us, working together to provide a single, global record of ice loss from Earth’s polar ice sheets. In our latest assessment, published in Nature, we used 11 different satellite missions to track Antarctica’s sea level contribution since the early 1990s.
We have found that since 1992 Antarctica has lost 2,720 billion tonnes of ice, raising global sea levels by 7.6mm. What is most concerning is that almost half of this ice loss has occurred in the past five years. Antarctica is now causing sea levels to rise at a rate of 0.6mm a year – faster now than at any time in the past 25 years.
Most of this ice loss has come from western Antarctica. In the Amundsen Sea Embayment (named after Roald Amundsen, one of the first explorers to reach the South Pole), warming ocean temperatures have reduced the floating ice shelves which slow the flow of the mighty Pine Island and Thwaites Glaciers, resulting in a rapid acceleration of ice losses. Between 1992 and 2017 we have observed a threefold increase in the rate of ice loss from western Antarctica, from 53 billion to 159 billion tonnes a year. In the Antarctic peninsula, the collapse of the Larsen B and Wilkins ice shelves in the 2000s has had similar consequences: an abrupt acceleration in the rate local glaciers drain into the ocean.
This new knowledge will help us better predict sea level rise in the future. In 2014 the intergovernmental panel on climate change (IPCC) published its fifth assessment report, which includes modelled projections of Antarctica’s contribution to sea level rise over the century.
By mapping our measured sea level contribution on top of these projections, we found that our previous assessment of Antarctic sea level contribution, which measured ice loss until 2012, was tracking the IPCC’s lowest projection.
In light of the acceleration in ice loss we have observed over the past five years, we now find sea level rise from Antarctica to be tracking the IPCC’s highest projection. This amounts to an additional 15cm in global sea level rise from Antarctica alone by 2100.
We have long suspected that changes in Earth’s climate will affect the polar ice sheets. The rapid increase in Antarctic ice loss and consequent sea level rise we have measured over the past 25 years are clear indicators of climate change.
Limiting global warming to 2C by 2100, as set by the Paris Agreement, looks increasingly unlikely. The rate at which ice losses from Antarctica will increase in response to a warming world remains uncertain. It is important, now more than ever, that we continue to use satellites to monitor Antarctica in order to better prepare ourselves for the challenges ahead.
Thomas Slater is a researcher, institute for climate and atmospheric science and Andrew Shepherd is a professor of earth observation at the University of Leeds. This article first appeared on TheConversation.com
June 20 (UPI) — An Alabama man was sentenced to 15 years in prison and a lifetime on parole for attempting to offer material support to Islamic State, the Justice Department announced on Wednesday.
The sentence comes after Aziz Ihab Sayyed, 23, pleaded guilty in March to buying bomb-building ingredients in 2017 with “aspirations to conduct Islamic State-inspired attacks on police stations and Redstone Arsenal,: a U.S. Army Base in Madison County, Ala.
The Justice Department also said that Sayyed, a U.S. citizen, attempted to form a cell to conduct violent acts within the United States.
According to prosecutors, between January and June 2017, Sayyed watched and shared several videos of the Islamic State committing acts of violence and researched how to make triacetone triperoxide, also known as TATP, a highly explosive material. He then bought materials to make a bomb with the TATP.
On June 13, 2107, Sayyed met with an undercover FBI employee who was posing as a member of the Islamic State. The two discussed making and detonating a bomb made with the TATP and Sayyed “offered to personally carry out attacks on behalf of [Islamic State],” prosecutors said.
“Aziz Sayyed was inspired by ISIS to kill or harm Americans and he has earned every bit of his prison term,” said U.S. Attorney Jay E. Town.